A Word on Wednesday: Suffer

Using the verb suffer with an object is one of my word choice pet peeves. The culprit is the acceptable definition  No. 5: “to undergo, be subjected to, or endure (pain, distress, injury, or anything unpleasantness).Consider when the object of the sentence is an illness:

She suffers from diabetes.
He suffers from cancer.
I suffer from bipolar disorder.
Now consider the same idea told with a different action verb. The subject of the sentence sounds stronger in every instance.
She manages her diabetes.
He lives with cancer.
I treat my bipolar disorder.

I blame well-meaning writing coaches for campaigning against the use of passive language. We are taught the following statements are weak.

She has diabetes.
He has cancer.
I have bipolar disorder.

So rather than clearly and objectively stating a condition, writers are supposed to replace the passive “has” with an active verb. Suffer, then, does the trick; it is dramatic.  The word itself is pronounced with a softness, a weakness, a helplessness: [suhf-er]. It does not sound tough.

When one defines her reality as suffering, it reinforces a victim mentality. Perhaps a person faces disease, compensates for disability, accepts illness, embraces challenge. Perhaps the pain associated with the disease is manageable.

Recently, I read “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,” by Haruki Murakami and the following line gave me pause. I tossed it back and forth in my mind.

“Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.”

I find Murakami’s observation logical and true. I also find it comforting. It encourages one to accept the pain and face it.


When we talk about having an illness “suffering is optional.”

The word I would use instead of suffer is one of graceful strength.

Endure.

One can endure the pain, weather the storm, and carry on.

A Word on Wednesday: Mining

 

Mining seems a straightforward word, boring even, completely understood on its face.

It can be a noun or a verb depending on if it is used to describe the industrial act of mining or the action of mining. It is derived from variations of the word mineral. (Reference Dictionary)
However, when the word mining is used as a verb with an object, it gets to the core of the magic of the word.

 

The verb when used with an object means TO DIG IN or TO EXTRACT, most commonly referring to the earth or rock in order to obtain ores, coal, etc.
Going a bit deeper, another definition, (No. 15), is “to avail oneself of or draw useful or valuable material from.”

If you would like to see some images of the immense impact of mining here is a quick google image search. This type of digging in and unearthing is paramount to success as a writer.

Everyone has seen the surface. Everyone has ideas.

Be a pioneer, burrow in, and draw out something of value. Pull it from the dirt. Examine its authenticity.

Take this resource to your crafting table and create.

My most popular workshop is “Mining Memories: Jump Start Your Memoir.” You may find more information about it and other workshops at my Website. 

Words Matter

Trigger words exist.

Words we now know are politically incorrect are real.

And this matters.

Words cannot be swallowed back.

Words tossed out casually or flippantly have consequences, mostly mild and in accumulations severe.

 

A Word on Wednesday

Here are two related facts: (1) my eighth grade teacher gave out copying dictionary pages as a punishment.  And (2) in eighth grade, I broke classroom rules during social studies.

Therefore, I copied plenty of dictionary pages.
Was that what made me want to be a writer? No! It made me want to pay more attention to the current event lessons and participate more in class and do my homework so I wouldn’t have to copy dictionary pages.
Was this what led me to a career in journalism? Probably not.
However, as a teenager, I did declare I wanted to be a writer. And my sister gave me a hardcover Tenth Edition of Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary for my 20th birthday.
I treasured it and her inscription: “May you write many stories, poems, thoughts … “
Ironically, I didn’t use it for writing. I had spell checker by then, later discovered Dictionary.com, and then the Look Up feature on Word. The thick tome with gold letters on a red cover did come in handy for Scrabble games, but now it is outdated and excludes many currently-acceptable scrabble words. So the relic is really just one of those nice-to-have things for this word nerd.
I came across the a book rest at a thrift store about five years ago; I bought it for fifty cents thinking it would make a great display for my dictionary. Yes, some people would think it more appropriate for a bible, and others use similar ones for cookbooks in the kitchen.
But for me, I think the dictionary is the good book in the house.
I’m launching “A Word on Wednesday” weekly feature here to draw attention to words — not words, which are obscure or snobby or hard to pronounce or complicated to spell. Each word will be selected because I think we should examine it more closely or use it more frequently or use it less flippantly. I may even dare to suggest some words to obliterate.
Next week, I’ll share my thoughts on “mining.”

A novel walk

I snapped the following pictures on the Ice Age Trail in Manitowoc, Wis. around 9 a.m. this morning. The scenery is inspiration for a fictional setting in my novel in progress. Enjoy the view, my friends. And, forgive my amateur photography skills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How I write

The beautiful and blank fancy journals.
The pristine journals are beautiful, inspiring, arty, and full of possibility. I have received many of these notebooks to inspire me and prompt me to write, a validation my vocation as a writer is a worthy pursuit.
Pictured are gifts from friends. The one in the background was a surprise gift brought to my front door at a time when I had “quit” writing. It was a thoughtful gift to inspire me to keep penning and remind me of the value of poetry and prose. I received the one in the foreground at my book launch party, it a ribbon of accomplishment, a celebration of those 75,000 words bound in my first published book.
The ugly work-in-progress truth.

My current project is a big mess! Note cards, legal pads (pink, yellow, and white), composition notebooks, binders, folders, sketch pads, markers, and that’s just on the desk. On the computer are jpegs of character composites and settings, One Note files, research PDFs, Excel spreadsheets, several word docs containing some of the forty-eight original poems that will accompany the novel, and The One Main Word Document, sadly shy on word and page count.

 

The blank, fresh sheets intimidate me rather than inspire me. I need color and mess. I need legal sheets that easily tear and can be crumpled before being tossed in the general direction of the waste paper basket. I take comfort in the clutter.
I apologize to Laurie and Sharon for keeping those pages blank. I do love them, and keep them as pure treasures. Someday, I may feel focused enough to be able to just write directly on the beautifully bound pages, confident in the worth of my words straight from thought to page. Until then, I can rest assured no one will publish my work posthumously, as it would be impossible to interrupt.
In case you are wondering, my novel in progress has a working title: “Poetic License.” Of course, there is a legal pad sheet with a list of at least twenty alternatives — was that a pink or yellow sheet and where did I file it?

Alleluia

On this day in my history, I was hospitalized for a psychotic break. I didn’t know it at the time; I thought I was going to a birthday party rather than the ICU of a psychiatric care center.
Today’s five-year, post-breakdown anniversary is a bittersweet reminder. I celebrate the absence of a re-occurrence, but recall vividly the horror of the injury.
The cause of the psychotic episode was determined to be bipolar disorder.
The name of that disease, its category of illness, and the shame of it all felt like more than I could accept in the spring of 2010. I certainly didn’t feel I would ever be right or normal.
However with medical treatment and a loving support system, I did learn I could be healthy and most importantly happy, genuinely happy even with a feared and disrespected illness as part of my whole.
I came to realize the man-made construct of control can be destroyed through a force outside of oneself. The savings account, the physical ability to work, the false sense of security.
I also learned how to rebuild with a more solid foundation.
I do not feel stronger for having survived. I am weaker — more timid, more hesitant, more fearful. I literally have come to accept I am, in fact, not strong enough to live without the help of medical treatment. I have learned I am not strong enough to live without love and support, which I both give and receive.
A sense of gratitude did emerge from the rubble. I thank God for each day I am able to wake up symptom free. I appreciate my family, my friends, and my vocation as a writer. I am indebted for the men and women who came before me to study,understand, and treat mental illness so those afflicted can live with health. I learned to see the beauty of nature, and through this I recognize the evidence of divinity.
The title of my book, “Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis” speaks to the temporary nature of psychosis, a fracture, something that can be repaired. A stress fracture — differing from other bone fractures — results from repeated pressure put on a bone, which over time causes a break. Psychosis can be like that; the repeated pressure of living with an untreated or mistreated mental illness forces a fissure in sanity.
The book was shared so others can recognize many of the symptoms of a chronic mental illness can heal. People with mental illness can live well and enjoy the view from a place of a healthy mind, body, and soul.
Happy spring; happy new life. For my Catholic friends, on Easter Sunday sing those Alleluias jubilantly.

Appetite

A boy with dreams more than a few
Worked so hard ’til they all came true.

Yet, he held a penny
To cast among many.

 

He wished for more fortune to brew.

Summer Days

Cool swimming pool

Icy lemonade
Reading in the shade
Retreat to central air

Ornery friends

Sweaty hair and face  
Suffocating car space
Trapped in pollen air

The Journey of a Dream

The well-timed exit:

Dark Horse
vs.
No Chance in Hell
Quitting
vs.
Moving On
Throwing in the Towel
vs.
Hanging up the Shoes

Cheering “Go For It!” and purchasing high end shoes, equipments, camps, and lessons to help the child pursue their dream of a NFL starring role, may not change the outcome. Encouraging him to try harder, do push ups, run track, visualize his dream coming true isn’t going to change circumstance. Let him try anyway, but then let him learn the tough lesson.

Look at the kid who is five feet tall his freshman year and weighs under a hundred pounds. Is this kid even making the high school team? A positive attitude and a display of hard work may earn his spot on the team, but is he ever getting off the bench?  Sure he can make every practice, may even get the second string line-up, but he isn’t going to outrun, out muscle the kid twice his size. He can wear the team t-shirt and travel on the team bus. He can pretend it doesn’t hurt that he doesn’t touch the game ball. No amount of mental aerobics and positive thinking is going to change his circumstance. No amount of mantras or feel good posters or bumper stickers or key rings is going to make it possible for him to play pro football. And that’s okay. Disappointment is okay.

The realization that we do not have super powers to overcome whatever obstacles exist is a healthy conclusion that allows us to be kind to ourselves.  Not being able to achieve whatever we want is not a sign of weakness, or a resolve to fail, quit, or give up. Dreams are something imagined and supposed. Moving on is liberating.

Dead end

Travel down a dead-end street
to see the end of the line.
Remember then to turn ‘round
to find what is most divine.